Our Personal Quest for Babies | Reeve blogger Heather Krill

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on November 08, 2016 # Caregiving

Geoff tells the story about the night of his accident, hitting an icy patch, crashing his snowmobile and catching his chest on a guardrail; he remembers lying in the snow and looking up at a sky full of stars. Maybe it was divine intervention-- more realistically just shock of knowing his back was broken as he could feel nothing-- but he describes this peaceful calm overtaking his body. He knew instinctively that he would live and that his life would be good again.

His one true fear, even then at 25 years old, wasn’t whether he would walk again; rather, it was whether or not he could become a dad. I say “could” because the biological part was important to Geoff. I would have been totally happy adopting some sweet little baby either from our own country or abroad. But Geoff needed to have his own genetic offspring.

So we fell in love, married, and immediately began the “fertility exploration process”, more casually known in our family as “Baby Quest.” This is always a weird thing to write about given the sheer issue of privacy, but we decided early on that together we would be comfortable sharing our story if it helps others to build their families.

Our journey began the moment we learned Geoff had viable sperm, which could not leave his body naturally, and over the course of approximately six years included six rounds of IUI (in utero insemination), two rounds of ovary harvesting, and about seven rounds of IVF (in vitro fertilization) and finished when we donated our remaining 10 embryos for adoption. Unfortunately, these procedures were not covered through our health insurance; although the prescriptions were, we spent about $47,000 all told with expenses over this five-year journey to have children.

We were not successful either for a long time which made us both crazy-- me because I was jacked up on so many hormones and tired of taking shots in personal places, and Geoff, because this is the ONE thing he wanted to be able to do in his lifetime, besides find a loving wife and fulfilling career. Our first round of IVF resulted in a rare condition known as hyper-ovarian stimulation, which meant all of our embryos had to be frozen prior to attempting pregnancy. Trying to maintain a positive outlook, we referred to these embryos on ice as KRILL-SICLES. We began with 15 krillsicles, and Carver Gregory, our now 6-year-old son, is a result of the last round, one of two remaining embryos implanted.

The fact that it took us three years to have our son translated into starting the process again when he was only 5 months old. This time around we did not have to deal with the hyper-stimulated ovaries and our daughter, Greta Paige, was born 9 months later. They are rocking first grade and kindergarten respectively, and we are clearly done having children. However, we knew this when we received a bill two years after Greta for a ridiculous amount of money to maintain our storage fee for the remaining krillsicles on ice. Discarding them did not seem like the conscientious thing to do, nor was paying a continuous storage fee for embryos we would never try to reach life potential. But it was super important to us to try to help other families like ours, either with fertility issues, or same sex couples, or those with spinal cord injuries where the sperm just couldn’t get to the egg. The day we signed all of our paperwork releasing our embryos is the same day I began writing a fiction novel entitled True North, about a family who adopts embryos in order to create their own family.

There were times I wanted to throw in the proverbial towel and sign up to be foster parents or adopt a baby from another place. Geoff wouldn’t let it go. We had fights over it truth be told-- because when you’ve always been good at something and then suddenly you aren’t getting the expected results (congrats-- you are pregnant) then it appears as if every unprepared and unexpecting person on the planet is actually having a baby when you can’t. This broke Geoff’s heart.

“We need to keep trying,” he would say, and so we would.

Our kids do not yet know the story of their conception, but they will one day know the doctors and nurses’ names who helped their mom and dad to become parents. They will also know about the acupuncturist who was also an ob-gyn and believed in the crossover of western and eastern medicine, and this missing link helped us to bring our babies into the world. Granted, Geoff’s patience in general from having lived the previous 15 years with a spinal cord injury made him an ideal fertility candidate. And, well, like with any birth, there is a whole lot of luck involved. Thank you to the stars aligning, and Mother Nature for looking out for us, and fate and God and medical technology, and to some good sperm and available eggs-- as in life, this was a true team effort.